No Proportion Kept: Within the Belly of the US’s Star-spangled Leviathan

Ha, ha! keep time: how sour sweet music is,
When time is broke and no proportion kept!
So is it in the music of men’s lives.

— Richard II’s lament from Act 5, Scene 5 of Shakespeare’s eponymous tragedy

Given the (great unspoken) fact, the wealth of Western civilisation’s ruling class was created by, and is maintained to this day by, genocidal conquer-lust and its attendant, imperialist aggression and plunder, the acts of mass murder being perpetrated by (mostly) White males in the US reflect a culture that deploys military and police state firepower to maintain its dominant status. As Malcolm X averred, the chickens have come home to roost. Moreover, if there does not arrive a rendezvous with reality and an honest reckoning with the fact, the Law Of Perpetual, Homicidal Poultry Returns will continue, ad infinitum.

When US troops in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan were deployed for missions outside their fortified compounds, base camps and “green zones,” they quipped they were proceeding into “Indian Country.” Acts of mass murder committed abroad by US military forces are mimicked by domestic freelancers. Their acts of violence cannot be separated and must be examined in light of the murderous repertoire, historic and present day, of the US military.

Moreover, brutality reigns and blow-back buffets a culture dependent on subduing large swathes of the world’s population in order to deliver ill-gotten resources to the homeland, all in an attempt to sate the obscene appetites of a craven class of economic, political, and militarist elite. Official secrecy, perpetual government and corporate coverups, a reflexively violent police culture, the cultural elevation of soldiering to saintly status, and mass media apologia for the dismal status quo, in unison, serve to protect the violence-sustained system, yet, concurrently, psychologically unhinged mass murderers reveal the collective unconscious of the culture.

Daily life within an empire becomes a grotesque pageant wherein the collective aura of its citizenry oscillates between the manic and the grim,  between cruelty and self-pity, from a reality-defiant belief in their victimhood to displays of bullying (also known as US foreign policy).

As noted, aggressors often view themselves as victims, and, in a manner, they are — withal, victims of their choice to surrender an independent mind to the soul-devouring machinery of a state and its cultural criteria that has grown monstrous. Their lives have merged with the dim beast, possessed of insatiable appetite, known as empire. After a while, the sum total of their knowledge of the world has been, exclusively, gathered from viewing the scenery within the belly of the US’s star-spangled leviathan.

Beneath the quotidian surface of late-stage capitalist modernity, a nebulous sense of apprehension churns. Yet, most go on, in a dolorous trudge or a display of manic avoidance. Generally, the vast majority of us manage not to go completely bug-house crazy, or kill ourselves or go on a murderous rampage. Yet: How is it that we do not drop to earth and pound the ground in lamentation or become frozen in a catatonic state? Rarely, do we acknowledge the dread simmering at the periphery of our sense of awareness. It seems as though, at some point, our facade would shatter into unretrievable shards…that we would turn to friends and strangers alike and sob, “are you not terrified too?”

How did we come by this collaboration in denial? Is personal denial determined by, thus is a reflection of, the collective form of the phenomenon? Sigmund Freud, late in life, grown melancholic by witnessing the blood-drench madness of the 20th Century, lamented depression was necessary to cool the violent, hothouse inclinations of the caged-by-modernity human race and was crucial to maintaining civilisation. To wit, the repression of primal drives creates nameless and nebulous, but society stabilising, angst. Subsequently, an ad hoc, provisional peace is established but its fragile stability, with a restive, roiling underpinning, is tragically subject to upwellings of violence and mass hysteria during periods when the barriers between the conscious and unconscious mind become weakened by external pressures.

(Nowadays, Freud has his vociferous detractors, in particular, the materialist school (whose reductionism-giddy prophets go so far as to deny the existence of the unconscious) and the High Dollar funded pill pushers of the psycho-pharmacological cults of the corporate state. Thus Freud and his legacy are out of fashion. Although, somehow, his critics trundle past the fact the capitalist/consumer culture is in the perpetual thrall of Freudian Theory, albeit, in a warped form. Appropriated for the self-serving purposes of the capitalist economic elite, as delivered to them, in the form of modern advertising and public relations legerdemain by Freud’s mercenary nephew, Edward L. Bernays, Freudian Theory has been in application, by the dark magicians of what was once broadly referred to as Madison Avenue, since the 1920s. If there was ever proof of the veracity of subliminal level drives and wish fulfillment desires, it lies in how effective propaganda has proven to be.)

Freud advocated the efficacy of a “talking cure.” But under consumer culture, the landscape of language is fracked; its psychical eco-system decimated by a truncating of the complexity of lexicon, both written and spoken. There is the banality of evil and then there is the evil of banality.

The Eichmanneque mindset of the crackbrain realism inherent to the capitalist order reduces earth, sky, language, and psyche to controllable (dreamless and dead) bits. All is fodder for commodification. The Spanish poet, later murdered by Franco’s fascists, upon an extended stay in New York City, limned in verse:

I attack all those persons/ who know nothing of the other half,/ the half who cannot be saved,/ who raise their cement mountains/ in which the hearts of the small/ animals no one thinks of are beating.

— Federico García Lorca, excerpt: New York (Office and Attack)

All…as the manic media culture churns in a proliferation of fervid imagery, freighted with a nightmare quality, as, concurrently, super storms, massive wildfires, and mass shootings come to pass — phenomena so huge in scope that it seems culled from the dreaming mind of one in the midst of a mental breakdown.

In the sky there is nobody asleep.  Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
The creatures of the moon sniff and prowl about their cabins.
The living iguanas will come and bite the men who do not dream,
and the man who rushes out with his spirit broken will meet on the
street corner
the unbelievable alligator quiet beneath the tender protest of the

— Federico García Lorca, excerpt: City That Does Not Sleep.

On the streets of the cities of the world, multitudes stare at handheld, electronic appliances, proceeding along, all the while, missing the tones and textures of city life. In cafes and coffee shops, one is prone to disappear into realms of bloodless pixel. In this manner, so much is passed by and elided…including the human face.

What is forsaken, on a psychical and societal basis, by the loss of face-to-face encounters? (As opposed to Facebook exchanges.) The face of another (that of a human being and that of other animals) serves to summon one into the participation mystique of life. Deprivation of connection with the face of others causes one to lose connection with one’s own body and soul, and to even seek the estranged other by the eros of violence.

A crucial question fails to rise to the fore of consciousness: What do I experience when I encounter a particular person? What do I make of this source of mystery — this emissary from eternity in the form of a living being — with whom arrives the possibility of connection, intrigue, conflict, or betrayal. If one loses the habit of communal engagement, one is in danger of losing one’s humanity. The heart atrophies from a lack of interpersonal connection.

The presence of others, even the panoply of life itself, is misapprehended as menacing…Others are perceived as malevolent, inhuman — as phantoms, devoid of face, heart, and blood. Without the faces of others, we exist nowhere. Life is rendered a soulless dance of nada…sensation sans sensitivity…a facsimile of experience lacking in empathy, imagination and eros.

It all begins and ends with the face.

Without an imperative for a deepening of self and a commitment to communal engagement — an evincing of peripatetic empathy and radical imagination — there exists little chance of transformation, of a remaking of the present order, from its rotten roots to its noxious blossoming.

Alexander Cockburn advised to keep one’s hate pure. And keep it directed at the appropriate targets; e.g., the present blood-sucking, earth-devastating order, a hierarchy of vampires. First step: Gain the presence of mind and sense of self to eschew displacing rage upon the powerless. In so doing, peripatetic empathy and radical imagination provide the psychical space for change to unfold and evolve, thus one gains the agency of heart and mind to drive a stake through the dry-as-dust heart of the status quo.

As Lorca testified:

The duende….Where is the duende? Through the empty archway a wind of the spirit enters, blowing insistently over the heads of the dead, in search of new landscapes and unknown accents: a wind with the odour of a child’s saliva, crushed grass, and medusa’s veil, announcing the endless baptism of freshly created things.

— Federico García Lorca, Theory and Play Of The Duende

Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living now in Munich, Germany. He may be contacted at: and at Facebook: Read other articles by Phil.